Sunday, January 23, 2011

When she works

When she works
      she calculates
precisely how much she’ll charge
for tilting back her head just so and
kissing the smoke. How much

depends upon how heavy the half-empty glass
in her hand, how many times she must
suck the cigar, and how delicately she holds
it between two fingers and her thumb.

She knows by how long he stares
exactly what she’s worth, and she deducts
how much it cost to slither into the strapless,
yellow gown she bought on sale, to highlight

her hair as if it were sun-kissed, to paint
her lips the perfect shade of pink to compliment
her pale skin. Flawlessness is expensive.

But the big bucks rely on her stillness,
on how many minutes she can hold the pose.

It’s harder than you might think, which is why
she does the math, counts the minutes and the number
of times he blinks his camera-shudder eyes.

Wait for it, she thinks. Wait for it.

Perfect, baby. Perfect.

And there it is: the cash register’s ring.

Later, she’ll unwind—wash her hair,
do some laundry, sit in front of the TV,
balance her budget, and let curve
the barest hint of a smile.

©Ami Mattison, 2011

Photo courtesy of Mike Roemer.


  1. Love this poem. It reminds me of how many...I have have known of many...who spent their weekends in Vegas...and returned to their universities to study Zen or early childhood education. The world is a fuuny funny place.

  2. Love it! "She knows by how long he stares / exactly what she’s wort" Some really nice internal rhyme too. The ring of the cash register is icing on the cake, which goes a step further to the her relatively normal life at home. Great challenge response, Mattison.

  3. This picture is the challenge? I haven't been over there yet. In any event, you've worked your insightful magic here, woman.

    As the philosopher Jackson Browne said, "It's who you look like, not who you are." (Am I showing my age. Yeah, spoze I am. Do I care? Ha!) I think so often about how people are attracted to an image of perfection, or sexiness, or power, or whatever it is. And as you've so perceptively written here, the longer one can hold the pose, the longer the illusion lasts.

    I find, the further along I get, the less i care about those veneers. Reality is messier and deeper and I want it pretty badddddd. Gimme.

    PS--cigars stink, period. yuck.

  4. Love the intensity with which she holds the pose, holds him in her hand, mesmerized by the painted mask of beauty, yet deep down, the she longs a bit for the reality of her budget and this effect on it.

  5. Perfect denouement with the laundry--the tawdry doll-goddess and her studied perfection, even she is human. Hey, it's a living.

  6. this is fabulous-- one of your best-- so direct, burning with the tongue in the cheek, yes? good for you for coming right out and saying she's so dolled up she could be a hooker-- interesting and very wide divergence on how men and women have related to this photo. After I gagged on a clean tampon I posted my poem about Paris. xxxj

  7. p.s. why is Adam calling you Mattison? xxxj Do you like to be called Mattison? I will if you like. Baci-- Jen

  8. Hey, Jenne'! Thanks for your thoughts on the poem, and yes, of course, lots of tongue in cheek intended.

    As for my name, my offline friends call me "Mattison," but I'm known professionally as "Ami Mattison." It confuses people sometimes, especially online because I use my professional name. I decided for this site, I'd try to assert my offline name. So, feel free to call me "Mattison."

    Thanks again for the supportive comments!

  9. hi mattisom
    i want permission to use all your words.

    i like how you imagined it to be her work.

    when i go out, it can sometimes seem like work, and then it sure does feel good to come home and relax.

  10. Hey, y'all! Just wanted to thank everyone for your kind and generous comments here. I'm so enjoying One Stop's picture prompt challenges. This one certainly kept me on my toes. Thanks again!

  11. This is a knock-me-off-my-feet poem. Wow. Well done. Well done indeed.

  12. Love the image of 'let curve the barest hint of a smile' juxtaposed in my brain with the 'it's harder than you might think'...